Every Friday, FlyerTalk looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.
The Korean Air heiresses, who were each responsible for their very own high-profile temper tantrums, finally lost their jobs at their father’s airline this week. In the latest embarrassing incident, Cho Hyun-min is accused of insulting an advertising executive and throwing water in his face during a meeting.
Cho Hyun-min made a shamefaced apology tour after news of her abusive behavior became public. “I apologize with my head down for my foolish and reckless behavior,” she told reporters in a public statement, but it was too late to save her job.
Her sister also received her walking papers this week. Cho Hyun-ah served several months in jail for a now-infamous incident in which she dressed down a pair of first class cabin crew members for serving pre-flight nuts in a package rather than a bowl. She then made the flight attendants kneel in front of her and apologize to her before ordering that the plane return to the gate so that the employees could be removed from the aircraft. The older sister was quietly rehired by the airline after her release from prison.
“I am deeply sorry that problems connected to my family have worried the people and employees of Korean Air,” proud papa Cho Yangho said in a statement announcing that his daughters are no longer affiliated with the airline. “As chairman of Korean Air and as the head of my family, I feel crushed by the immature behavior of my daughters.”
Meanwhile, an airport executive in the U.S. appears to have largely escaped any repercussions at all for his bad behavior. News 4 Jacksonville reports that Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) Chief Operating Officer Tony Cugno kept his job after admitting to circumventing security in order to help an airport board member avoid having to explain to TSA why he was carrying a large amount of cash on his person prior to boarding a flight to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS).
When news of the 2011 incident became public this week, it was revealed that Cugno, whose duties include overseeing security at the airport, was suspended for three days after the incident was finally investigated nearly four years later. Homeland Security officials reportedly left disciplinary decisions up to the airport officials who work under Cugno’s supervision. The airport executive was allowed to keep his security credentials despite the admitted breech of airport, FAA and TSA protocols.
“Mr. Cugno was put on leave without pay for three days and ordered to undergo retraining on TSA and JAA security procedures and was counseled on how he should have acted under the circumstances,” the airport explained in a statement released to the public this week. “Following these actions, the JAA considered this matter closed.”
A 25-year-old Chinese man earned a fine of $15,000 and a 15-day jail sentence for opening the emergency exit of a plane upon arrival at Mianyang Nanjiao Airport (MIG). Authorities were apparently not especially impressed with the air traveler’s earnest explanation for the whole misunderstanding.
“Because it was so stuffy, so hot on the plane, I just pushed down on the window handle beside me,” the embarrassed passenger reportedly told police. “When the door fell out, I panicked.”
Unfortunately for the latest victim of stale cabin air, when he opened the emergency hatch for a breath of fresh air, the door not only fell away from the aircraft, but the emergency slide was automatically triggered at the same time. The resulting spectacle likely helped to make the passenger’s rather reasonable explanation seem woefully insufficient.
The Chinese government has made a point in recent months of coming down hard on misbehaving passengers. In 2015, a passenger at Nanjing Lukou International Airport (NKG) received a notably lighter sentence for unapologetically opening an emergency exit to let in a little fresh air.
The 15 days of jail time handed out due to this latest episode was largely viewed as a warning to other would-be troublemakers in the sky. According to officials, the rather hefty fine will be used to help the airline recoup financial losses suffered as a result of the regrettable affair.